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ups: great graphics, sound, and gameplay; intense action
downs: can be very linear; still feels like just another WWII game

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Call of Duty 2: Big Red One Review
game: Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Activision
developer: Grey Matter Studios/Treyarch
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 11:43 AM Sat Dec 10th, 2005
last revision: 11:49 AM Sat Dec 10th, 2005

Click to read.One thing the gaming world isn\'t short on right now is World War II shooters. And with the upcoming graphical advances developers will have to play with in the next generation, it is doubtful the WWII pipeline will close off anytime soon. But before we fully move into the next-gen, it is only right that we cap this-gen one off with the latest addition to one of the best WWII series out there, Call of Duty. In this latest edition in the series, available for all three of the current-gen consoles and PC, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One puts you right in the thick of things with America\'s most legendary infantry division, the Big Red One.

Let\'s clarify one thing right off the bat, this game is all about keeping you in constant action without a lot of annoying things, such as story, getting in the way. Right from the beginning you are set in a firefight without a whole lot of guidance. The first level does a little bit of hand holding, teaching you the most basic maneuvers such as looking, shooting, and crouching, but a quick glance at the manual to figure out what all the buttons do is just as effective. All of the missions progress in a very logical and visually-aided order, with a map showing the progress of your company through Africa, Sicily, and Central Europe. And while this is a little bit of a history lesson for those of us in the dark about the Big Red One, there is no explanation of what exactly is going on. Why are we destroying this building? Why are we fighting through this squad? Why are we doing what we\'re doing? As a result this offers little motivation to really push you forward through the game. One trick COD2: Big Red One tries to help alleviate this is to focus more on the brotherly bond between the members of the Big Red One. Unfortunately this isn\'t very well represented in-game, and the game still ends up being all about fighting against the enemy and not for your comrade.

So what does keep the player into the game? Action, lots and lots of action. Not only does Big Red One provide a great variety of gameplay, but it also does a good job of smoothly transitioning from one type to another. Occasionally you will get a little bored sitting in a tank or turret for too long, but the wide variety of ways to blow the enemy away is a great feature. From turrets, to tanks, to planes, it\'s all here. The controls are also very well done and very tight, making the fighting even more fun. One thing I did notice was that the game was fairly lenient of where you hit the enemy. Of course the conventional gamepad is not nearly as precise as a mouse, but hitting an advancing soldier in the elbow is not a one-hit kill in my book, not even with a sniper rifle.

The intensity of the action is also aided by the superb audio and visuals. Obviously what you hear coming out of your speakers isn\'t going to vary between the consoles, but Xbox owners will be treated to a slightly better graphical experience than GameCube or PS2 owners. This isn\'t to say the game looks bad on any of the consoles, quite the opposite. COD2: Big Red One is one of the best looking console shooters available no matter who you are. The environments are huge, detailed, and really provide a \"go anywhere\" feeling.

Unfortunately this beauty really is only skin deep. Despite the massive-feeling levels, Big Red One can be extremely linear at times, sometimes even to the point of claustrophobia when you are driving a tank through a valley. And let\'s not forget those loveable minefields that seem to completely surround every level, leaving you with no escape from the action. The cinematic approach used for Big Red One has, either by design or as a side-effect, really limited the openness of the game. Don\'t get me wrong though, it really does give you that intense, theatrical feeling of actually playing a character in a movie, and is well-directed to boot.

Big Red One also has a multiplayer mode available on the Xbox and PS2 versions, with the Box having the far more polished experience. It is obvious that the focus of the game is its single player campaign and its action packed pace. Multiplayer mode is very simple and definitely smells of \"if it\'s a shooter it needs multiplayer\". With the basic modes such as deathmatch and capture the flag, and a few elementary gameplay options, there really isn\'t a whole lot to get excited about.

In the end, it\'s a shame that COD2: Big Red One feels like just another World War II shooter, albeit a really fun one. The graphics, sound effects, and voice acting are top notch. And the varied, always-exciting gameplay is well done and very smooth. But so much more could have been done to really show off the \"fighting for the man beside you\" mentality the Big Red One was known for. Still, shooter fans, especially those of the WWII genre, would be well advised to give this one a try, or perhaps give it its own little spot on this year\'s Christmas list.

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